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Museum of Pont-Aven brings to light the importance of Pont-Aven in the artistic journey of the Impressionists
Paul Gauguin, La fenaison en Bretagne, 1888. Musée d'Orsay © RMN Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) Hervé Lewandowski.

PONT-AVEN.- This new exhibition, conceived by the Museum of Pont-Aven, brings to light the importance of Brittany, and in particular Pont-Aven, in the artistic journey of Paul Gauguin and the other painters who joined him on this adventure. Some of them totally adhered to his innovative trials, infused with synthetism and symbolism, whereas others shared their path between this aesthetic revolution and an impressionistic approach. As Gauguin left, and despite the dispersion of the Pont-Aven group, some artists decided to stay in order to develop these « breton printings ».

Gauguin in Pont-Aven: The Freedom to Create
The first part of the exhibition highlights how much of an important milestone the impressionism period was to the artistic thinking of Paul Gauguin (1848-1903).

Impressionism helped him master the variations in outdoor lighting, as well as a more audacious use of sharpness in colour and a freedom of expression in the composition.

Paul Gauguin, while still an amateur artist, met Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) in 1874. From then, he followed the instructions of his « dear master » and committed to an initiation down a purely impressionistic path, where the observation of reality through the effects of light was predominant. As a preamble, the exhibition introduces Paul Gauguin and Camille Pissarro’s impressionism art, to highlight their affiliation.

In 1886, Paul Gauguin participated in the last exhibition of the Impressionists in Paris before staying in Pont-Aven for the first time. Meanwhile Claude Monet (1840-1926) was in Belle-Ile-en-Mer. Between 1886 and 1889, Gauguin’s thoughts resulted in the emergence of synthetism, to which other avant-garde artists will adhere.

In 1889, the Exhibition of the Impressionist and Synthetist Group was organised in Paris at the Café Volpini, near the Eiffel Tower; but it lacked uniformity. Nonetheless, with the « Impressionist » term, Gauguin evoked the fierce freedom of creativity.

In this context, this exhibition also displays art from Émile Schuffenecker (1851-1934) which is more impressionistic than synthetistic.

The obvious and sometimes temporary influence of cloisonnism and synthetism within the Pont-Aven group lasted until the final departure of Gauguin to Tahiti, in 1895.

Thereafter, the stylistic choices of some of the painters from Pont-Aven fluctuated between impressionism and post-impressionism, sometimes with hints of japonism.

Pont-Aven After Gauguin: The Impressionistic Path
The second part of the exhibition expands on the more impressionistic path, in its historical meaning, taken by some artists from the Pont-Aven group. These artists never totally bought into to Paul Gauguin’s symbolism. Leaving behind the use of uniform colours, they followed, each in their own way, the path developed by Claude Monet in Brittany. They attempted to replicate the atmospheric vibrations of the ocean too; that which the Master of Giverny himself struggled to do during his stay in Brittany.

After Paul Gauguin’s departure, some painters from the Pont-Aven group either joined the Parisian workshop or went back to their own country. However, some others decided to either extend their stay in Brittany, come back regularly or even settle down here. Of those who kept the Brittany connection, some deepened their outdoor works through nature, and used their easels and tubes of colour paints again, on the coastline or inland. They re-appropriated the reflection of the light, in various locations, in their own manner. These «Impressionists from Pont-Aven» are Henry Moret (1856-1913), Maxime Maufra (1861-1918), Ferdinand Loyen du Puigaudeau (1864-1930), Gustave Loiseau (1865-1935).

The exhibition unveils thematic series’ containing meaningful art by these painters. The public can appreciate how much Brittany was a vibrant source of light, in the same way that Normandy was with other major artists of the impressionist move.

Henry Moret ended up settling in Doëlan near Pont-Aven, while Maxime Maufra settled in Kerhostin in the peninsula of Quiberon, Ferdinand Loyen du Puigaudeau in Kervaudu Manor near Batz-sur-Mer, and Gustave Loiseau often stayed in Pont-Aven.

This attraction for Brittany shows how much the artists wanted to be as near as possible to the actual subjects in order to master them. Their talent didn’t go unnoticed and the famous « Galerie des Impressionistes » of Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922) offered exclusive contracts to Moret et Maufra in 1895, and then to Puigaudeau and Loiseau.

The exhibition presents a large selection of these 4 artists’ work, which were highly appreciated by the Anglo-Saxons and other foreign collections, from the beginning of the XXth century.

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